Meet the Artist……Angelo Villani, pianist

Angelo Villani is planning his debut CD ‘Dante’s Inferno’. Help make it happen by supporting his Kickstarter campaign. Pledge your support here

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

My mother always wanted to play but never had the chance. One day she asked me if I wanted to learn, and I said yes.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

I really love and admire the older pianists who themselves emulated the great singers of the past. One can always hear the influence of great singing on pianists such as Horowitz, Nyiregyhazi, Sofronitsky, and Tiegerman.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

After not playing for over 25 years, it was a very long walk to the wonderful Fazioli at St James’s last October.

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

My dream venue would be an open-air concert in Loch-ard Gorge along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. The acoustic there is phenomenal. Just a slight logistical problem of getting a piano and full orchestra down there.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Ramon Vinay (Tenor), the late Dietrich Fischer – Dieskau (Baritone), Zara Dolukhanova (Mezzo Soprano), Adolf Busch (Violinist), Bronislav Hubermann (Violinist), Carlos Kleiber (Conductor), Victor de Sabata (Conductor), Wilhelm Furtwangler (Conductor)…. and many more.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I heard Shura Chekassky play at Wigmore Hall just before he died. He made the most ravishing piano sound I’ve ever heard in that Hall.

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?

Being a pianist, I am really spoilt for choice as there is so much truly great music written for the piano. Where does one stop? And to listen to….. I constantly marvel at the sense of novelty and invention of Errol Garner’s concert by the sea (I also seduced my fiancée listening to this album).

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians/students?

There is no such thing as perfection. The greatest performances, no matter how extraordinary and ‘ideal’, are in a state of flux. We must never forget that some of the greatest performers in history i.e. Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Scriabin, Art Tatum, Errol Garner and Miles Davis et al, were great improvisers.

What are you working on at the moment?

I love to work on a number of things simultaneously. My old Russian piano teacher often spoke about walking past Sviatoslav Richter’s apartment and eavesdropping, hearing the great master practicing completely different works to what he was going to play later that very evening.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Opening a sensational bottle of red wine after a good concert and sharing with friends.

Angelo Villani performs at London’s St John’s Smith Square on Wednesday 8th May in a concert featuring works by Debussy, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner/Von Bulow/Liszt/Villani and Alkan. Further details and tickets here

Born in Australia to Italian parents, Angelo Villani attended Melbourne’s school for musically- gifted children, the Victorian College of the Arts, where his teachers included Alexander Semetsky, a pupil of Emil Gilels, and Stephen McIntyre, a student of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. A flourishing career as a teenager included performances of the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto and Rachmaninov 2nd Concerto with Melbourne Symphony, acclaimed for their dramatic intensity, vision and musical conviction.

Following further recitals and appearances on ABC Television, Angelo Villani won considerable respect and esteem and a promising career seemed forthcoming. Following recommendations by Leslie Howard and Joyce Greer de Holesch to take part in the Moscow Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, the 23-year-old pianist was accepted for the 9th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1990.

The young Australian pianist arrived in Moscow a week earlier to prepare himself for the Herculean contest. Shortly before the first round, Villani withdraw owing to a trapped nerve. A potentially important career came to an abrupt halt, whilst Villani travelled internationally seeking effective treatment.

Since settling in London in 1991, Villani has performed sporadically in mostly private gatherings such as the Liszt Society annual meeting performing alongside Kenneth Hamilton and at the Royal Overseas League. He has channeled his extensive knowledge of piano repertoire and recording history in new ways. He gives masterclasses to professional musicians, has written for specialist publications and worked for 7 years in Tower Records, providing expert advice on recordings to customers. When specialist music shops disappeared from the high streets, Villani took up employment as piano teacher at Rosary Primary School (Belsize Park) and Kentish Town Church of England Primary.

Since 2010, tangible improvements have emerged which have allowed Angelo Villani to make a full return to the keyboard and over the past couple of years he has given several private concerts across the UK. 2012 marked a return to form culminating in his official London recital debut.